This Replicant is Unique
An Interview With "Blade Runner" Star Rutger Hauer
Starlog Magazine #60 - October 1982
Although American audiences may regard the dynamic Rutger hauer as a rising young star, his riveting and multi-faceted portrayal of the renegade replicant Roy Batty in Blade Runner marks his seventeenth wide-screen appearance and opened in theaters just a month and a half after his critically acclaimed performance as Albert Speer in the five-hour telefilm Inside the Third Reich.
As Holland's top film star, Hauer came to prominence in 1973 with Turkish Delight, which received an Oscar nomination as Best Foreign Film, a feat which was repeated with his even more highly acclaimed World War II espionage drama Soldier of Orange in 1977. It was this film which gained him his entree into American Films.
"Soldier of Orange seemed to be doing something," Hauer recalls, "and the thought struck me that I love this profession. But Holland is a small country and I wanted to go on if I could and learn a bit more about this profession find an audience and go on working, and I couldn't do that in Holland. It's sort of a dead-end road, in a way, and so I tried to get into America and now I'm doing well. I'm a very lucky guy and that's the bottom line."
Although the veteran of a variety of roles, the one closest to that of Roy Batty was Hauer's performance as the merciless terrorist Wulfgar in the 1981 film Nighthawks. Playing a character who was terrifying and deeply intense, the role drew attention to him even though box office on the film was minimal. Wulfgar was even a more soulless individual than the replicant of Blade Runner. "Ridley had seen me in Nighthawks and Soldier of Orange," explains the actor, "and then he saw some other film I did and he wanted me. That's how it started."
And before it was over, several versions of the Blade Runner script, each one different, had been given to the actor. The basic story remained the same, but the changes are of interest. "It was shortened," Hauer reveals. "They decided to cut a few really important scenes out and make the script more intense. I don't remember when it was exactly that I got the (final) version, but I think I've seen three different versions."
In one of the early scripts, Hauer tells us, Roy Batty not only kills Tyrell but extends his rage to encompass Tyrell's entire family. "There was also one version where Tyrell wasn't really the maker," says Hauer. "There was a scene where Tyrell was killed and you saw some tools rolling out of his head, so you were finding out that this was another android doing a job. Then Roy pressed Sebastian to tell him the truth and they go up in another level in the building where they find a coffin containing Batty's real maker who had been dead for a long time. This made it even more desperate for the characters because it wasn't just a refusal of help - and they were going to die pretty soon."
"But that was dropped because they didn't want to go into the same sort of thing twice, because then I'd crush the coffin and do all kinds of things, so they shortened that. They changed their minds to go more for Harrison's character and show a bit of background on him more so than the replicants."
Even so, a scene shot with Harrison Ford visiting his friend Holden (the other Blade Runner blasted through a wall in the opening scene) who is in a life-support chamber, was also cut from the film. "I'm sure there was quite a lot they didn't use - although there was nothing specific that I would find annoying or a loss to film quality."
Prior to Blade Runner Hauer had little interest in science fiction, and yet he is still very much aware of it and has some unique ideas on what constitutes the realm of science fiction, especially in movies.
"I am not really into science fiction at all because I tend to think that it's just another sort of game with the brain. The subject is the future, which is fun to think about, but it doesn't really attract me. I don't know why. I'm not afraid of the future. My interests are different, but I was very pleased with the way that Blade Runner approaches science fiction because it's within sight. Of course if you don't like it, that's another story. Then it doesn't really matter."
"I think science fiction is...if you play a part that goes back to the medieval, or even 10 years, just the 1970's, that's science fiction to me. It's exactly the same thing, it only goes backwards instead of forwards. But I don't think there is much of a difference in there because it's all fiction anyway, and it's all just a different point of view, and that's what film is about. It's always just a point of view of some people who approach the subject, and that's what I really like about it very much because it's so subjective. I think that's all we do in films is science fiction."
"It's less familiar in something like Blade Runner," says Hauer, "because we haven't seen it before. But as soon as we start dressing up like people that behave normally, people think, 'Oh, this is contemporary. That's good. That's comfortable.' And if it's history, they think that they're learning history, visual history. But as soon as it goes into the future, people get scared because if it's unpleasant they don't really want to deal with it, which is funny," Hauer observes.
"I met a man while we were shooting Blade Runner who said that he was into inventing things and he was working on genetic engineering," the actor recalls. "I think I met him on the set, and maybe, it's very well possible, that he was just another strange guy. But on the other hand it was possible that it was true. That's science fiction. It might be true and it might not be true. It is an interesting point of view and with genetic engineering everybody knows that we are able to influence people's brains by doing things to it. There's the fact that they were using it, I think, in the 60s on people that were sort of insane. But I'm sure that Ridley has told you enough about genetic engineering which has been done. He knows much more about it than I do," Hauer says.
Ridley Scott perceived the replicants as victims of society, giving them an element of tragedy. Hauer, too, sees them as products of society and attitudes we have present today.
"It's a genetically-designed human being, which is rather ironic because of the fact that they would ever get that far so as to fake people," Hauer states. Ironic or not, he sees this as a common attitude. "Everything that's original is very expensive, so why not buy a copy - whether it's a car or art...it's a thought that's already spreading like hell."
"That's something in the film that I like very much because there's nothing that's like the original - that's us - and you may think that we're not doing too well, but we're still really the specific specimen of humanity."
To further emphasize the point, and to get to the heart of the question of what exactly does make us human Scott was tempted to allude to the possibility that Harrison Ford's character is also an android. "That was a question, which I like, that they wanted to slightly put in, but it doesn't come out," Hauer says. "It is confusing, of course, to an audience who is thinking, 'This is the hero,' if you, after three-quarters of the film, sort of drop the fact that Rick Deckard might be an android. That's well, a bit heavy," he admits.
Like others who have worked with Ridley Scott, such as Sean Young, Hauer has nothing but praise for the director of Blade Runner. "My experience was constant delight. His brain is like quicksilver, and if there's an obstacle, it's like fluid - it goes around it and I could follow him, you know, more or less, which is fun. If you meet a determined man, normally it tells you that he will break the rock if it gets in his way, but Ridley doesn't do that. He goes zimph and he's around it. That's different. Very few people can deal with that in that way. He's a great director. He takes his time for you. He fools around a lot. He has a very enjoyable sense of humor and he's great."
Regarding the beehive smoke with which Ridley Scott fills his sets during filming, and which Sean Young had explained could be very difficult to work it, Hauer agrees that it was something to deal with. "Well, you just have to get out of it. If you do a day's shooting, probably a five or six minute take if that's what the shooting takes, the rest is rehearsal and waiting, so you just get out. It is hard. It gets to your eyes. It also gets to your lungs, but I'm a heavy smoker - I have no excuses for that. But you can see it and for an actress it's probably worse. It's one of the little problems we have to deal with. It makes it harder working on the set. It makes it more exhausting. The smoke gets in your eyes but it creates, probably, half of the film because the light gets thick. Lighting is only visible, really, or most visible, when you color it, like when you thicken it by smoke, and I think they did a wonderful job because it also fades it a bit - makes it less brilliant and less clear which is nice because nothing is ever really clear, so let's have some smoke!”
Although Sean Young found a Harrison Ford to be a bit distant when off-camera, and would have liked to have been able to discuss their roles in more depth, Rutger Hauer had only brief scenes with Harrison and so wasn't confronted with that situation. "I only had two moments in the film with him, but he was fine. One time he hit me on the head and the other time he's hanging on my hand. Most of it is technical stuff."
"Our scenes were very clearly written in the script and so I didn't feel that problem of communication because we didn't have to talk about it. It was just a matter of doing it without getting hurt. He didn't want to fall down that 20-foot drop or whatever it was, and so he was hanging there. They used a wire for support but it was still kind of tough to get him up."
When questioned as to the difference between making films in the U.S. and in Europe, since the vast body of his work has been in European films, Hauer says the main difference which he could perceive was a technological one. "That goes especially for the special effects. Blade Runner is really an American film, even though the director is British. You would not be able to make this film in Europe. In Europe we don't have the tools to be able to do this sort of film. You can't even create the idea of wanting to make a film like this there because you won't be able to do it in Europe just because of the technical stuff. It's a great achievement after King Kong that you can make a film like this."
Although many people discuss American films and European films as having different styles and intents, Hauer doesn't see it. "I am not so sure that Europeans in America or Americans in Europe or Europeans in Europe have a label on ourselves that brands us as European thinking and I don't think there is something like that. I really don't. Some people are bright and some people are stupid. We all know of Einstein and he's given us some great thoughts so it's up to the individual to find their way through. If you want to think in black and white and good and bad, it's up to you but I don't."
"Maybe there is a difference but it's very hard for me to tell what it is. I'd rather have it all as a choice. If we have a Western world that presents itself to us through the limited freedom the press gives it, let's have it all. Let's make up our minds and see what is in it."
"An audience is conditioned in what it's expecting. It's done by the press and it's time. I mean, everybody tells you in America that time is very important and everybody knows it's not really important because we're going to die anyway."
"I think the individual is in bad shape. That's one of the major issues that I'm sort of, in my little keyhole, trying to portray my characters with. People must find their roots back at basic choices - bad, good, grey and red choices. We are led by machinery and the fact is that nuclear plants are going to be distributed by the hundreds in a couple of years, if we don't watch it. That's really a danger for the individual. It's not just a danger for countries and we have to make up our minds on that."
Recalling the article which appeared in the May 8, 1982, TV Guide on "Inside the Third Reich,’ and the attempts in the piece to portray Hauer as a bit on the eccentric side, he displays equanimity. "If you are working, you get exposure from the press and you might and well celebrate it all over the place - and make fun of yourself, in a way. That's the way I think I would like to deal with it, but it's very difficult to find the right way."
"But then how many times do you get an actor from Holland to portray certain parts in America? That's not done very often and it makes me sort of, let's say, different from what is usually done. I myself have a few clues that I'm not quite as normally conditioned as other people are, you know, so I'm happy that I can work in an area where you can take advantage of that because being an actor you can fool around a lot."
Although he has played a wide variety of parts, there is still one kind of role which Hauer feels has eluded him and which he is looking forward to doing. "I'd love to try a comedy because that's something I never tried. I've tasted a bit of it, but a good comedy is hard to find because it lifts everything on another level of dealing with it. If you can see the humor of anything it makes it sort of smooth to deal with and I think I might do well in that because I'm not a heavyweight. I'm a lightweight."